Multiple sources reported that a US drone strike targeted the home of alleged AQAP leader and tribal sheikh Abdul Ilah al-Dhahab in Yakla, in the al-Qaifa area of Bayda governorate, at dawn on March 2nd 2017. There were no known reported casualties.
Multiple sources suggested that al-Dhahab survived this strike, having been fighting with the “popular resistance” in Marib governorate since mid-February 2017. Some suggested that the drone strike missed the house, and therefore did not result in casualties. One local language source, al-Mashad al-Yemeni, reported that this strike came in conjunction with other attacks by the US across the Rada’a area of Qaifa, including Yakla and Jabal Novan.
According to local sources allegedly spoken with by Al Mawqea Post, US strikes in the Qaifa area continued from 4am until 7am, across many areas held by AQAP forces. According to AP, Bayda “tribal leader” Sadek al-Jaouf, said that houses were bombed in Yakla area from March 2nd to March 3rd. Speaking with The Intercept, one local resident, Sheikh Aziz al-Ameri, claimed that US Apaches conducted “indiscriminate” shelling in the Yakla area early on March 2nd. One source reported that a donkey was killed by US strikes in Yakla, though it was unclear if this took place at dawn on March 2nd, or during further strikes in the area later that day.
Al-Ghail was previously the target of a US (and, allegedly, Emirati) ground raid on January 29th 2017, which had resulted in the deaths of at least twenty civilians, including eleven or more children. Reportedly amongst the dead were several relatives of Abdul Ilah al-Dhahab including his son, Nasser, his niece, Nawar al-Awlaki; and two of his brothers, alleged AQAP militants Sultan and Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab. Multiple sources, however, disputed that the latter two were affiliated with AQAP, instead suggesting that they were instead involved with pro-Hadi militia forces.
This reported strike took place amid a dramatic intensification of US operations against AQAP. On March 2nd, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davies announced “more than 20 strikes targeted AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah” early that morning. On March 3rd, the Associated Press reported that Yemeni officials and residents had said the US had conducted “dozens of airstrikes on al-Qaida targets in Yemen overnight and in the past 48 hours in one of the lengthiest, sustained operations inside this conflict-torn Arab country”.
A US military intelligence source told NBC News that the strikes were “part of ‘new directives’ to aggressively pursue the Dhahab and Qayfa clans”.
The incident occured around dawn.
Sources (14) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a residential building being struck in the village of Al Ghayil (الغيل), for which the coordinates are: 14.592945, 45.038975. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
U.S. forces conducted a series of precision strikes in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, in the early morning of March 2 (Yemen time). More than 20 strikes targeted AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah.
The strikes were conducted in partnership with the Government of Yemen, and were coordinated with President Hadi. The Government of Yemen is a valuable counter-terrorism partner, and we support its efforts to bring stability to the region by fighting known terrorist organizations like AQAP.
The strikes will degrade the AQAP's ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting. Targets of the strikes included militants, equipment, infrastructure, heavy weapons systems and fighting positions.
AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct, and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies. U.S. forces will continue to work with the Government of Yemen to defeat AQAP and deny it the ability to operate in Yemen.